Mobile Internet offers big potential for advertisers


CHINESE consumers are embracing the era of mobile Internet, with more urban professionals turning from television or newspapers to smartphones or tablet computers for information.

And advertisers want to be where everyone is looking.

China has the largest number of mobile phone users in the world at 1 billion. Industry watchers estimate that the number of mobile users logging into the Internet will surpass those on personal computers by the end of this year.

"This will become a big opportunity for advertisers," said Benjamin Wei, director for GroupM Interactive's mobile and new media sector.

Last month, for the first time, there were more new mobile devices put into use in China than in the US. Devices using Apple's iOS system and Google's Android system accounted for about a quarter of global use, the largest single market in the world.

Big brands have been quick to seize opportunities in the mobile market.

Starbucks China, for one, has launched a Chinese version of its application, giving mobile users information of store location, seasonal menus, membership cards and the opportunity to share their thoughts with other coffee lovers.

"With market awareness and technology today, I fully expect to see a big boost in advertising spending on mobile platforms," said Philip Kuai, vice president and general manager of Mobile Ad Platform at AdChina. "Expenditure could double or even triple this year."

Applications build an important channel between brands and consumers and help connect online campaigns with offline shopping, Shanghai-based digital advertising network AdChina pointed out in a recent marketing white paper.

Among the top 100 global brands according to Interbrand, 60 of them have a Chinese version application on Apple and Android smartphones.

As many as 25 brand applications are introduced to the Chinese App Store every week.

One smartphone survey reported by AdChina suggested that 80 percent of users have downloaded at least one brand application.

Applications are not the only gimmick being used to target consumers on mobile devices. Brands are also putting an increasing amount of advertising on mobile webpages and on mobile games.

A 2011 research report released by Google, Mobile Marketing Association and marketing research company IPSOS showed that 53 percent of mobile phone users have used digital coupons when buying merchandise in shops.

The report also said about a third of users will click on links that they come across on smartphones or applications.

Mobile technologies now can help advertisers target customers by allowing them to sift consumers according to interests, location, and even types of phones in use.

Measuring the effectiveness of mobile advertising across various platforms is still in a very early stage, AdChina's Kuai pointed out.

Sandy Shen, chief analyst for wireless Internet at Internet consultancy iResearch Inc, said the majority of mobile Internet advertising still relies on ads that pop up in mobile games or mobile news websites.

She added that such marketing is relatively easy and more cost-effective than brand applications.

Although TV remains the biggest advertising channel, more big brands are expected to allocate an increasing share of ad spending on mobile platforms. At present, multinational spending in that realm remains a relatively small part of overall ad budgets. The numbers make that strategy attractive.

China had 513 million Internet users by the end of last year, and mobile netizens grew 17 percent to 356 million, according to a government report.

By the end of 2015, iResearch estimates that mobile advertising spending will make up 11.5 percent of overall Internet advertising, up from 4.5 percent at the end of last year. This year, mobile advertising in China may be about 5.9 billion yuan. GroupM's Wei said as the number of mobile users expands, the market will be more aware of advertising potential.

"Sometimes, it will be more efficient to place advertisement on web pages and mobile news portals, depending on the target customers advertisers want to reach," said Wei.

As print media also launches versions of iPad and iPhone, they too will be looking for ways to make money from their digital versions.

The expanding market presents advertisers with a lot of choices.

"Brand owners need to combine their unique brand concepts and combine them with consumers needs, instead of merely pushing campaigns and brand images to users passively," Kelly Xing, digital director at Mindshare China, explained.


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